You want the phone to ring and then when it rings you hate it, because you want it to be good news and you’re pretty sure it’s not. But it could be. Wince: unfamiliar local number.
“Hello, James? This is Cheryl from The Retrievers. I’m Scout's case worker.”
His - his case worker. I’m stunned. Now. Over the last few days I signed up for all sorts of Lost Dog sites, and as far as I can tell most don’t do anything useful. They have pictures in case someone finds your dog and looks for it. They sent out emails to subscribers. One of the wanted $30 to have the post on the main page for 2 days. If you paid $99 it would be up for a month. I don’t understand this at all. If someone finds a dog they call the humane society or the pound. Right?
I had signed for The Retrievers the night before, on someone’s suggestion, and now I have someone with an action plan and lots of good advice and reassurances. He’s out there, but he’s gone into survival mode, and will be skittish and avoid people, so I can’t count on someone finding him and he trots over and they grab his collar and it’s all okay. We have to put up signs and fliers to get a fix on where he is - and then they put out traps and cameras, in some situations.
Who are you people?
Volunteers. All volunteers. She’s created a secret Facebook page for Scout that shows all the locations where the signs should go. They send me a flier to print and instructions on what kind of plastic bag to put it in. They send me a video about how to make these big signs on neon poster board with wooden stakes and big letters. It’s all about awareness.
I’ve always figured the fliers were a sign of helplessness - something to do. I’ve seen them, and I’ve never remembered anything. But I have found lost dogs, and I’ve returned them to their owner by calling the number on the tag. Seems that’s how it goes. Now I’m kicking myself for not doing this earlier, and it feels both terribly necessary and terribly pointless.
Then comes the Bolt From The Blue.
Sunday Morning, and I hadn’t seen it. I hadn’t gotten any notifications from the Facebook page, or had I? Hadn’t gotten a call from the people who staff the Facebook page; they’d called before when I set up the post for Scout’s absence. Sunday morning. We’d wasted a day, and I’m kicking myself - except.
Except this means he’s out of the park, and in the neighborhood. But the woman’s post doesn’t quite make sense. Long story, but my wife tracks her down, they chat, and wife thinks she’s a bit strange, or confused about streets - she’s new to town, maybe - but we’re going with this. Scout’s Case Worker generates a map for the big signs.
Twenty-one big signs.
I have to print off pictures of Scout, of course, and that’s a challenge. It has to be big enough for someone in a car to see. He’s a black dog. It’s hard to get a fix on him in a photo, but I find one that gives an impression of his face and color and build, and crop out the background.
Annnnnd I am out of ink.
Hold on, didn’t I subscribe to that service that automatically sends ink when I’m low? I did. Check the settings: the printer is not connected to the internet, because I’d changed the network when I installed the Mesh System and built a new network.
Now I can’t print pictures to save my dog because the printer cannot connect to a network that literally has his name in it.
But I have some ink stored away, and start printing. Every other job the printer tells me it’s not connected to the internet, and pumps out a page of connection instructions on the nice glossy paper. Thanks pal. But I get enough for three signs, and after one is made I head to the first location to hammer it on the boulevard.
First I have to put up a flier on the gate into the dog park, where he isn’t. I have the flier in a plastic bag with holes punched in the corner and four pieces of wire I saved from the bundles of Christmas lights. Somehow by the time I get to the gate two wires have fallen off, and I want to weep - but there are two old pieces of wire, the type you used to find around loaves of bread, and I use those.
As long as I’m here, I might as well go down into the park, where he isn’t. It’s not entirely dark but it’s deserted and mysterious.
An old stove.
I walked until I realized I wouldn’t make it out before dark unless I turned back. The darkness of the place gathers in front of you. What were bright wide breaks in the trees are now murky windows with the Mississippi beyond. I walked faster.
When I was out I sat down at a bench, exhausted, and had a small cigar. I looked at the lost dog pages and then looked at Twitter. Lots of people responding to day’s lost dog tweets with kind words and suggestions and prayers and buck-up-there-son and stories of long absences happily concluded.
One guy says:
Was Obama in town
Because, you know, he eats dogs, you know.
I tweeted back asking what my dog had ever done to deserve such a callous tweet.
Here’s the thing I have learned from this experience, second-hand: the intersection of awful people and dogs is a wretched place. People, says Scout’s Case Worker, post messages on FB that say “I saw this dog just get hit by a car at such & such location, police on the scene.”
They do this for amusement.
So I tweeted back to the guy who asked if Obama ate my dog: what did my dog ever do to you to deserve such a callous remark?
And then I walked along the highway that leads into the dog park and hammered a sign into the ground, and felt even more futile than I had all day. Drove home. Studied the route. It’s absolutely possible for Scout to have traveled from the river to the neighborhood where the lady said she saw him. She wrote that post on Scout’s page because she said she had gone online and searched for lost dogs after seeing the dog on the highway, and spent an hour until she found Scout’s page.
We don’t know if it’s believable, or if it’s him. We don’t know if he headed south to follow the scents of the river. We. Don’t. Know. Anything.
Tomorrow I make ten more signs and hammer them into the ground.
In case he comes home, there’s food at the door.
Tuesday: nothing. All day making signs and putting them up and getting more materials and making more signs. And now it's 11:30 PM and I have to write a column.